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Let’s then try this Centring Prayer for the next five minutes. 4. When the timer rings or buzzes, don’t respond immediately; remain in silence with your eyes closed for a minute or two. 3. Whenever you find your mind wandering to your to do list or calendar or the agenda for tomorrow’s meeting, return to your holy word. 2. Sit comfortably with your eyes closed. I would suggest you place your hands in your lap, palms up, symbolizing an openness to receiving what God wants to say to you. Silently say your holy word or phrase. Say it as many times as you need in order to quiet that “monkey mind” of yours. 1. Set a timer. For those of us who are not accustomed to spending a long time in silence, it is important, I think, to remove any distraction that might cause some anxiety—how will I know how much time has gone by? Most people who practice this method of prayer do so for thirty minutes. I think that’s too long for a beginner. Set your timer for ten to fifteen minutes and if you can use a timer that will gently advise you the time is up. Our stove timer is designed to arouse the dead, if necessary. Avoid that sort of jarring end to your prayer time.This is how one engages in a time of Centring Prayer.That’s right, we are going to try centring prayer. There’s one more important thing that needs to be said about the holy word or phase that one chooses—it should express your intention to consent to the presence and action of God within you. Today our focus is upon the spiritual practice called Centring Prayer. This manner of praying comes out of the early teachings of contemplative Christianity. Centring Prayer helps a person quiet their “monkey mind” by focussing on a word or phrase that is repeated in time with one’s breath. For example, perhaps your phrase is “thy will be done.” The phrase is said slowly, “thy will” said as you breathe in, “be done” as you breathe out. Examples of one word are Jesus, Father, Love, Mercy and Faith. Some who practice Centring Prayer use what is called the Jesus Prayer as their holy word—Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner. What would be your word or phrase? Pick one for today.One author referred to his “monkey mind.” Like a monkey, your mind swings from one thought to another, creating a constant chatter in your head, making it hard to listen to anything or anyone else.I said earlier that I think that after listening to at least one of the sermons in this series you will think that there was nothing in it for you. My aim in this series is actually narrower than that—I hope that out of the seven sermons you will find one of the prayer practices described hitting home to you and you feel led by God to incorporate that practice into your spiritual formation. The basic answer to our question, why pray? is quite simple. We pray because as Christians we are in a relationship with God. There can be no relationship without communication. Communication takes time and many of you are living a life that has precious little wiggle room built into it. But having said that I don’t think it is too unkind to say that in spite of our busy lives we do find time for those things that we value. I enjoy my daily walk with the dog and make sure I find time for that most days. (Although the doxies that have been part of our family were never fans of winter—long walks are going to wait until spring.) And you can be certain that I plan to find time tonight for the return of Downton Abbey on the smart channel. God came looking for the first two humans and the text implies this was something that had happened before. But on the day spoken of in Genesis 3, the man and the woman hide from God because they know they have disobeyed, they have betrayed God’s trust in them. There are consequences, of course, the most significant being that the man and woman are sent from this paradise. However it is also clear as the story unfolds that God is still reaching out to humanity with the invitation to relationship. Christians believe this reaching out finds its focal point, its fulfilment in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. More than that, we were created for a relationship with God. This is made clear in a number of ways in the Bible. Within the story of creation we are told that humans are made in the image of God and we are given that beautiful and yet sad picture of the first humans hearing the sound of God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze. Perhaps you have lived in a place similar to Cobourg where Chris and I lived from 1974 to 1981. In the summer we would often take an after-supper walk to the beach because most evenings a cooling breeze would sweep in off the lake. It was a lovely gift to look forward to on a hot muggy day. The creation stories in Genesis 1 and 2 offer us something of a glimpse into the mind of God. In Genesis 1 we are told that human beings were created in the image of God. We are the only part of creation about whom this is said. I know that some of you think your cat is semi-human and all of those people who bought Christmas outfits for Fido think he or she is better than most of the humans they know, but I stand by my point. It is only humans who were created with the divine image implanted. It is only humans who, according to Genesis 2 were fashioned by God as a sculptor shapes a piece of clay into a figure. We are unique in creation. There is a question that we must tackle as we begin: why pray? Our text for today is from the story of creation. I think, like the majority of you, that what we are to take out of the creation story is not so much a timetable or schedule as we are to discover meanings. For example, what are we to make of six days of work and the one day of rest? I believe God wants us to see that this pattern of creation and re-creation is built into our world. If you are working at such a pace that you have little or no downtime, you are denying something fundamental about your creation and I suspect your spiritual, emotional and or your physical health will suffer as a result. Let me then speak plainly: if there is a sermon and a spiritual practice that holds no interest for you, tell yourself two things: first, it may be that what is said on that day God intends for someone else, but second, it may be that God intends it for you but not yet. It may be that God is introducing some things today to you and me that will only be spiritually vital tomorrow.Forty years ago I was in the early stages of my pastoral career. Today I am confronted with all the things I would still like to preach about; back then I wondered if I could last another six months without running out of things to say. I have a feeling it was needing some help with the question of how preachers ought to structure a preaching calendar that pushed me to look at something called the lectionary. There I discovered there was a large slice of the Christian family that followed a three-year cycle of readings. It wasn’t long before I also discovered that many Christians also use the seasons of the church year to give structure and content to their devotional life. Over the years I have also discovered that some of my Baptist colleagues consider me something of a “freak” within our family. What helps me in my prayer life leaves them cold.By way of prelude to this series of seven sermons, let me tell you right up front that there is going to be at least one of these sermons that you will think had nothing to say to you. The reason I know this is true is because we are talking about spiritual formation in general and prayer in particular. In my experience nowhere is it more apparent that God created a huge variety of us than when we talk about prayer. I believe that most preachers know at least one crucial thing about the congregation that is going to hear every sermon they preach. They know about themselves, or at least they should. I always know that in one way or another I am preaching to myself. That is never more apparent to me than when I tackle the subject of prayer. I take great comfort in what I understand was once said by no less a spiritually aware person than Henri Nouwen, that we are all novices in the school of prayer. A pastor eight months from retirement is reluctant to make such an admission, but if I can’t be honest when we talk with each other there is truly something very wrong. This sermon, then and the others in the series will be preached not by someone with delusions of spiritual grandeur but someone who is feeling his way along the path and hopes in the process to discover some things that will be helpful to us all. Let us pray. Eternal God, as on the first day when the work of creation began, and as on a first day when Jesus rose from the grave with power, so on this first day, as we encounter your living word, do your work of renewal and grace in our lives. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.